Thursday, 11 March 2010

Six Days in Lent

Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. As Lent goes on, feedback is beginning to emerge about Archdeacon Karen’s and my idea about clergy taking six days in Lent to feed their souls.

I feel faintly compromised in mentioning this, since this week’s day off has just got eaten up (in a good cause) leaving me only the London art day planned for tomorrow. I’m sure the same sort of thing is happening to clergy colleagues much better than me, but at least the Lent day gave me some recharging time this week, and it’s the spirit not the letter that gives life.

So, thanks to Lesley Fellows for describing here how trying to do this has been impacting her work as a parish priest:
On the one hand I have been dropping balls.. people have not been visited who I used to visit, I have had reminder emails to do stuff I promised to do and haven't got around to, and I feel mildly out of control as I forlornly move tasks to do from one day to the next, my desk is untidy, my emails unanswered and my in tray is too full. Moreover when my friends ring me to go out for lunch I can't find a single slot in Lent. So why do it to myself?

Well the other side of the story is that I was getting more stressed than I would like to admit. I was getting stroppy with the kids, feeling vulnerable to dark moods and generally not thriving. I now feel happy. I feel better about the world, I laugh more, God is a good guy, I even love the church at the moment, I am more optimistic, I even think I am more effective in some ways.

I seriously don't want Lent to end until I get this in balance. It is now clear to me that my markers of success were in terms of getting the work done, the do list ticked and not letting anyone down. I am not even sure that the solution is a case of stopping some activities, perhaps it is worth me taking a hatchet to my diary in general, prioritising restorative time, and then accepting that the rest of the work may or may not fit.
But a special Big Wet Sloppy Digital Mars Bar goes to David Harris. He would probably get one anyway, as a lay person who heard the clergy call and decided to give it a whirl himself. David has been trying out a few of our starter ideas every week: follow his adventures here.

The story I liked, however was here, about David going all the way to France to visit the Antony Caro Chapel of Light, finding it closed, explaining to the caretaker that he had been asked by his diocese to visit as a Lenten exercise, and getting red carpet treatment.

With these reflections come a mental note that blogs help improve the quality of unsolicited feedback I can be aware of from around the archdeaconry, and solicitation to anyone else to let me know of how they're getting on this Lent with the quest to sustain the Sacred Centre...

Images h/t Plattenspieler Design Blog


Ann said...

Seems it was hard for Jesus and his followers to take any time off too -- re: today's Daily Office from the BCP:

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. Mark 6:30-33

as I wrote in response - deserted places are hard to find

Lesley said...

Thanks for your kind comments, but mostly thanks for the extra day off! What benefits have you found?

Anonymous said...

This is Adrian (for some reason I only seem to be able to log on as anonymous)

Thank you for this. Last week I was struck down with our local sickness and diarroea bug. Fortunately it's rather short lived and on the third day I begun to rise again. UNfortunately I was struch with the feeling that actually I'd rather spend another day lurching between bedroom and bathroom than go back to work. My next immediate thought was 'I'm in the wrong job' then I remembered about Lenten rest and pondered that I was perhaps in the right job but doing it the wrong way!

I took over a group of five parishes less than six months ago and I've been busy. A sense of duty more than anything I think impelled me out of the house the following day to preside, and preach, and baptise and do a bit of over-coffee pastoring.

I realised that what had happened was that, even in my virus-affected discomfort I'd had time to be what I hadn't allowed myself much time to be in the past six months - myself.

So on Monday I did a bit of 'Lesley Fellows' if I follow here comments here - by taking a bit of hatchett to the diary. There's a least one big thing that won't actually get done now until 2011 but I suspect nobody much wanted me to do it anyway! I finished the last ten pages of a book that had the bookmark there for at least three weeks, I stopped the car, got out, and breathed in the air, and I wrote to a friend.

I felt so much better and, even if some people are waiting for responses from me, I suspect more of those around me feel a bit better too.

Thanks for the encouragement and I hope this encourages others!

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ann, your comment reminded me of the trouble Benedict and others had when they went out to seek solitude in the desert and found the whole place heaving with ruddy hermits.

Lesley, it's good. I got to pray in and contemplate the new font at Salisbury Cathedral, which is amazing; I've been up to a few exhibitions in my extra time, and taught myself a new skill (sound editing), as well as discovering Pelagos. All good stuff, but the bad news is that my days off have been eaten into from the rear, always in a good cause, because it always is in a good cause, isn't it. I'm trying to claw back some time in Holy Week...

Adrian, (wondering what's going on in the log-in department of Google/Blogger), I'm sorry to hear of your illness, but glad resurrection comes on the third day. I remember John Robinson saying he'd written Honest to God because of back truble and the reflective space it gave him. I think machete-ing the diary is the only way, but have to confess (as above) to less success so far than I had hoped for — a challenge to me to try and do what you've done...

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